- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Regional lawmakers are weighing similar approaches to limit law enforcement in the aftermath of last summers protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

In Virginia, new measures on policing took effect on Monday, including a ban on no-knock search warrants, policies requiring officers to intervene in certain altercations during police actions and the establishment of statewide training standards on racial bias and de-escalation tactics.

In Maryland, similar measures are part of a nine-bill police reform package that was scheduled for debate Tuesday on the Senate floor. The afternoon debate, however, largely centered on a bill that seeks to allow police misconduct complaints and investigations, including those that are unfounded, to be released to the public with some exceptions.

Sen. Jill Carter, Baltimore Democrat, sponsored the bill, which is named “Anton’s Law” after a 19-year-old who died in police custody in 2018. His family has been unable to view the investigative file of an involved officer whose police certification was later revoked after officials said he failed to disclose 30 use-of-force reports from his previous job in Delaware.

Ms. Carter said Tuesday that the legislation “removes a veil of secrecy that police disciplinary records have been shrouded in for a long time.”

“It’s critically important if we’re going to find out, not just about individual officers, but to find out how the agencies are investigating these complaints to make sure — it’s really also a check on the agencies because what the data reveals is all across the state, agencies have failed to properly investigate allegations,” she said.

Sen. Pamela Beidle, Anne Arundel Democrat, proposed an amendment that would exempt unsustained complaints from public release. She drew a comparison with a complaint against a state legislator that “quietly goes to the ethics commission and none of it’s talked about … unless that person is actually found guilty.”

“Other than that, it just quietly goes away and we never know and that’s how it should be, I think, when we’re not guilty,” Ms. Beidle said. “But, in this case, you’re not guilty and it’s still out there for public information and I think I just have real concerns about officer’s careers and families being affected by false allegations.”

Ms. Carter said accusations against senators should also be made public because lawmakers and police are public servants.

Sen. Chris West, Baltimore County Republican, reiterated Ms. Beidle’s concerns about the broader impact that false claims made public could have on an officer.

“And once it’s on social media, the officer’s children in school are likely to be harassed and bullied because of the false complaint made against their father,” Mr. West said. “This bill would permit that, this bill would facilitate that kind of, that sort of, information being disseminated on social media which could destroy a man’s reputation and destroy his career.”

Sen. Malcolm Augustine, Prince George’s Democrat, said supporters of the bill are not trying to “negatively impact the careers of law enforcement, not at all, we respect them — but we are trying to save lives.”

After more than two hours of debate, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted 21-26 against the amendment.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Council was scheduled to vote Tuesday on a bill to extend limits on police searches that were set to expire. But council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat, withdrew the bill, saying there was “no longer a need for this procedural measure.”

The measure was part of a temporary comprehensive policing and justice reform bill implemented in December. The rest of that bill, which includes prohibiting hiring police with a history of serious misconduct and requires prompt release of names and body camera footage of police involved in use-of-force situations, remains in effect until July 15.

In April, members of a police reform commission are scheduled to present recommendations to the council for permanent legislation.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide